Even though, the open innovation movement is more than 10 years old, we still see people who are more concerned about protecting their assets rather than connecting them with others in order to create more opportunities faster.
This was the case when I gave a talk on Open Innovation and Higher Education at the British Library. Here, I got in touch with Brian McCaul, who runs an interesting initiative called The Innovation Commons. He used the above phrase on “protection versus connection” when we had a panel session on open innovation in the university and tech transfer system.
We both agree that this system needs to be shaken up in order for it to better adapt to the realities of today (innovation is already open). Brian also touched on another reason for the slowness of embracing open innovation in the university sector and I agree on the premises for this as well.
Too often, the people in this sector focus too much on personal or team competences and try to bring this into play without paying much attention on how to integrate this into the bigger picture. This is sad as better results can be achieved if the early outset is about network competences and how to contribute as well as get benefits in such a system. The mindset really needs to evolve from a focus on personal or team competences to network competences.
It seems as if we still have to remind ourselves of this great qoute by Bill Joy: “Not all the smart people work for you.”
How should universities and tech transfer units overcome these hurdles? I sense that there are lots of capable people in the operational roles, but this does not matter much if the system itself lets them down and more or less sets them up to fail. It is unfortunately just very difficult to change the mindset of the leaders of such institutions, but if they do not get a better understanding of innovation and how this works, they will keep running into the same challenges over and over again. I will stop here, because this is an entirely different discussion than the points I wanted to bring out on the open innovation mindset in general.
And yes, I did focus on universities and tech transfer units in this post, but the truth is that we also see similar mindset bottlenecks in the corporate world although to a lesser extent. So there is definitely room for improvement for open innovation, but this is in many ways also a great opportunity for more growth and prosperity.